Thursday, March 14, 2013

To Remain in the Unction: Pope Francis' Homily at the Chrism Mass of 2012

To give an example of the preaching of our new Holy Father, what follows is my English translation (Spanish original here) of the homily given by Pope Francis when he was merely Cardinal Bergoglio at the Chrism Mass in Buenos Aires on April 5, 2012.  I apologize for any bad translation on my part:

Psalm 88 that we have recently prayed tells us about the "forever" of the unction: "I anointed David my servant with the sacred oil, so that my hand would be always with him."  The unction of the Lord is "fidelity and love that accompanies us" to the length of our sacerdotal life.  Perhaps it is Saint John who best expresses this permanent character of the unction: "The unction that you received from Him remains in you and you do not require that anyone teach you" (1 Jn 2:27).

The unction remains in us, it imprints on us a character; he treats of how we remain in it: "Already that unction instructs you in all and it is true and does not lie, you remain in Him, as it teaches you."  To remain in the unction..., that teaches us interiorly how to remain in friendship with Jesus.

It will be good to ask ourselves: What helps us to remain in the unction?  How to experience its joy, how to feel that it fortifies us, making the Cross smooth and bearable, how to live it like a shield before temptations and like balsam on wounds?  What helps us to not depower it, to not lose salt, to maintain ardently the fervor...?  How to evade swelling the list of those that end badly and do not remain in the unction: Saul, Esau, Solomon...?  In the mode of response, a little before, in the same letter, John gives the key: "He that says that he remains in Him, ought to walk like Him" (1 Jn 2:6).

To remain in the unction then does not signify to put ones face to an icon or maintain a static posture; it signifies "walking" and the walking of which John speaks (periepatesen) is that of all of the paralytics cured in the Gospel, that got up with a leap and walked with their pallets as luggage and followed the Lord; it is the walking of Peter towards Jesus, walking on the waters, symbol of the  man that walks in the faith, that "abandons all security and advances to the encounter which one only can reach by grace" (von Balthsar).  Thus it is: in order to remain in the unction there has to be walking, there has to be leaving and walking like Christ walked.

The unction of the Spirit remained on the Lord who "walked doing the good," spilling the mercy of the Father on all those who needed in on each occasion, until consummating his Passover and the Exodus of truth in the total opening of his Heart run through on the Cross.  And to remain in the unction is to walk doing the good; a good that is not an observable possession but that diffuses itself like the perfume of pure nard with which Mary anointed the Lord.  This it is that irritated Judas, who had lost the unction and could no longer enjoy the fragrance that perfumed all the house.  The intangibility of the unction of the Spirit usually replaces itself, when one loses it, with the countable and sonorous [Trans: a Spanish phrase referring to "hard cash"] tangibility of money.  We thought in the countable self-referencing [Trans: literally, autoreferentiability] of such persons and institutions of the Church.  What happened to their remaining in the unction?  When, in the desert, the people rested from the unction, they made for themselves a calf of gold (Ex 32:1-6).

The remaining in the unction is defined in walking and in doing.  A doing that is not only deeds but a style that searches and desires to be able to participate in the style of Jesus.  The "becoming all for all to gain some for Christ" comes from this side.  Like anointed ones one tries to participate in that unction, the one that gives docile and humble bleating to the Heart of the Lord; to participate in that unction that fills him with joy when he sees how the Father makes all things good and reveals his things to the small ones; to participate in that union that covers all his Body in the passion making his wounds, spread with the remedy of charity, be converted into healing wounds; to participate in that union with the oil of the joy of the resurrection, that exudes itself in the office of consoling friends...

But it is precisely in the mode of announcing and defending the truth where we can better contemplate the style of the Anointed and his mode of behaving.  Here stands out enormously the patience that the Lord had for teaching.  Patience with the people (the evangelists make us note how Jesus passed hours teaching and chatting with the people, even though he was tired); and patience with the disciples (how he explained to them the parables when they stayed with  him alone, with what good humor he made them confess that they  had been chattering about who was the most important..., how he was preparing them for his cross and so that they would know how to recognize him later in the incredible joy of the resurrection).  The image most beautiful, perhaps, of that unction for teaching is the Pilgrim of Emmaus.  They talk to him and talk to him and He listens to them patiently while he makes them feel and enjoy internally the good that is walking in his company, in such a way that when he makes the gesture of following along they feel that they do not want him to go and the idea arises in them of inviting him to proceed.  Then "they open their eyes" and recognize him at the breaking of bread.  The unction with which the Lord broke the bread and gave it to them!  It is the unction to celebrate the Eucharist that remained recorded in the memory of the Church and of which each one of us, priests, participates.  In the common formula of the Church each one places the most special part of his heart in consecrating, and is in the habit of being a gracious participant of some other priest that makes one feel the unction of the Lord.  To remain in the unction, to remain in the listening to the Word as he shares the bread...

We leave to the side, for the moment, the sharpness and the spark of the Lord for taking his teaching from the everyday and also in the magisterial elaboration of the parables, that are trying to illustrate, and we contemplate how is manifested the unction of the Lord for combating error and the insidiousness of his enemies.  Never was the Lord on everyone's lips.  And that which had the capacity and motives to be ironic, or for showing itself angry or being caustic...  His not dialoguing with the demonic (because with the demonic one ought not to dialogue), his dominion of the language with the scribes and pharisees, his silence before the powerful, his not avenging himself with the weak that infected themselves and made firewood from the fallen tree... they speak to us of that mode of behaving of the Anointed in which he invites us to participate.  All this part, "negative," if one wants, of his true dominion, is the necessary counter-face of that good word that he sowed deep in the heart of the humble.  The Anointed whom we follow does not impose himself with arrogant starts or maltreating of the faithful.  He who is the Word anoints penetrating docilely in the interior of the one who has good will and armoring the heart so that no word can be badly used by the enemy.

Today, perhaps more than ever, we need this grace of the unction of the Word.  We need to listen to teh anointed words that permit us to interiorize the truth in such a way that we do not have to fear losing liberty by obeying the words of the Lord or of the Church: the anointed word teaches us from within.  We need also to listen to the anointed words that makes us allergic to all bad words, thsoe that leave a bad taste in the mouth and make sour the heart.  Our faithful people need us to preach anointed words, that arrive in their hearts and that make them burn like the words of the Lord made burn the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus, anointed words that defend their hearts so that penetrate them does not such a bad word, such gossip or tasteless speech, such a lie and such an interested word.  These modes of speaking, that today they hear from all sides and all the time are those that attack and many times make the unction be lost.

Anointed in the Anointed we look today to our Mother and ask her that she guard the unction in our hearts.  And that she guards it also in our gazes and in our hands.  That with that mode of hers of behaving, like her Son's, a mode of behaving that she first inculcated in him and later, like a disciple, learned from Him, she tell us the truth and do it—like a good maccabee—in that language maternal (cf. 2 Mac 7:21,27) that brings us irresistibly to remain in Jesus.  That her bounty helps us to comprehend that the unction does not manifest itself in a hieratic [Trans. highly formal and stylized] and artificial pose in our mode of being, but in walking like He walked; help us to guard the word with unction and with unction we see and work.  And in a special way we ask her that no word leaves from our  mouth that would not be edifying but that, guarding and ruminating the things of her Son in our hearts, words may emerge in us that delight the faithful Holy People of God, according to the ways of the Anointed that came to announce the Good News.

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